Tell us about yourself and your career.
My name is Mary Lou Cummings and I started my career 30 years ago in IT, specifically data storage and search technology, and graduated to sales from there. I recently made a career choice to follow my passion, which is wine and the wine industry.
Why were you looking for a job?
I had taken a job as a wine salesperson in the Philadelphia area, selling an Italian wine portfolio to restaurants and private clubs. I decided to deepen my knowledge of the wine business – import/export, wine laws, and marketing – to catapult my career. I took a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take courses in France about the international wine trade; I thought I would land quickly from this but found the search to be more difficult than anticipated.
How did you discover PAGCG?
In March 2019, I sought out further assistance from a friend, where I ended up discovering the Philadelphia Area Great Careers Group (PAGCG). She was laid off and suggested that I join the Meetup group. Through this group, I cherry-picked the topics that I found to be the most interesting to me.
How did PAGCG help you in your job search?
Because of my unique industry, I shifted my focus to functional topics such as LinkedIn and the Applicant Tracking System (ATS), where I learned about the resume black hole. The camaraderie within the organization was especially helpful because I could speak with others in similar circumstances.
How did you find your job? How long did it take?
I found my job through LinkedIn. Before I landed, I immersed myself in conferences and wine events where I eventually found my current company, a conferencing company focused on print, digital, and live marketing. I was intrigued by this company and searched them on LinkedIn and, to my surprise, I found a fitting role. I grabbed the bull by the horns and reached out to the recruiter. She got right back to me, and we took off from there, which was back in November 2019. Due to some delays, I didn’t join the company until February 2020.
What kept you motivated during the job search, especially during the downtimes?
It was tough, but I reminded myself that this was on me and that it was up to me to find a job. No one would hand me a job – I needed to own this and take charge of my career. I wanted to make my schooling in France count for myself and my family.
What were the lessons that you learned during your job search?
Be targeted in your approach. Don’t just apply to something just because it sounds good. I nearly fell back into IT because I was so desperate to find a job; however, it was apparent to both the recruiter and me that my heart was not into it. Looking back, it is not worth the effort to fall back on a job you know isn’t your passion.
Do you have any networking tips or tricks that you can share?
Follow the basics. Read about the tips and tricks, the latest and greatest, about your industry. If I saw an article that was meaningful to me, I would find the author on LinkedIn and reach out to them and say, “Hey, your article was very interesting, I would love to be a part of your network and watch you grow!” Reach out to people on LinkedIn if you are interested in what they do, volunteer for events you find interesting, do some online work, and help others.
What will you do in your new role?
My role is an account executive to sell space at our conferences, and my regions are Europe and South America. Being fluent in French, and partially in Italian, helps me perform well in my role.
What is one takeaway or nugget of wisdom that you would like to share?
No matter how many times you hear “No,” believe in your innate knowledge and talents that you can offer to others.